Day 5: Handling the foals and when to halter break

I like thinking outside the box. It isn’t that thinking inside the box is bad…it’s more that I can add to that knowledge by thinking differently at times. Let’s apply this thought to halter breaking.

When does halter breaking begin? That depends on who you ask. Some people begin the day the foal is born, others wait until weaning time while still others, like big ranches out west, often wait even longer than that. Many times the size of the operation and the use of the horse now and in the future are all taken into consideration.

Presto and Justice are both around a month old and have not been halter trained yet. They have been handled. When the foals were sent home the instructions were to ‘bear hug’ them off the trailer. Even though they haven’t worn halters they HAVE picked up an understanding of yielding to pressure.

Let me put that another way.

Possibly –because- they have not worn halters yet they have learned to yield to pressure well.

Stacy Westfall with foalsI’m suggesting that the lack of wearing a halter at first makes the handler more aware of the ‘whole body’ experience that must happen with the foal. Sometimes old habits are hard to recognize, let alone change, and for that very reason there are times when doing something in a different way can have better results. Not because the original method was bad…but because sometimes we get familiar and lazy when it comes to something we do all the time.

These foals handle amazingly well because they have been guided by pressure and release. it is easy to wrap one arm behind them and guide their head and neck in the direction you desire to steer them. This method encourages driving the foals from behind and not getting in a tug of war. Not that anyone sets out to get into a pulling contest….but how many times have you seen someone accidentally end up there? Again, it is not the tool (in this case a halter) that has a shortcoming or defect…it is the understanding and the timing of the release.

And that is the secret from the first day until the last.

My foals need to learn to be halter trained. It is a safety thing. If one were to escape someone might guess that they were halter trained and try leading them. Plus they are growing quickly and the method that worked on a 3 day old won’t work on a 3 year old (I would need longer arms) and halter training should be fun.

These babies are already excited to spend time with me and this will give me more ways to communicate with them. It will also increase the places we can go!

Want to help pick the halters Presto and Justice will be wearing? Weaver Leather has committee to providing halters and is letting everyone vote on their Facebook page for the color they want each to wear. Jump over to their page to have your vote count or leave your comment here if you just want to leave it for fun. The votes close Thursday night (June 9, 2016). 
Weaver leather halter votingWeaver halter colors


  1. Jennifer Questa on June 21, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Comet, 2014 nurse mare foal, wore a halter from day one (gotcha day). Since I’m such a tiny human I found it easier to use to ropes. One attached to his halter normally, and another like a liberty neck rope. It was easier for me, and he was less reactive to the neck rope than the butt rope, to guide with halter and if he got stuck to use the neck rope to influence his shoulders. It is all about timing the release though.

    Today, as a 3 year old, he leads very well with both halter or the liberty neck rope.

    Have fun!!!!

  2. Dan on June 11, 2016 at 7:11 pm

    I am really enjoying your blog posts about these two nurse mare foals! These two seem pretty bonded. How do you plan on overcoming any sense of herd boundness when you begin your training?

    • Stacy Westfall on June 13, 2016 at 5:30 pm

      Glad you’re enjoying it! I plan on treating it like weaning from their mother. For me that means introducing more horses to the herd and eventually putting each foal in a separate herd. I have a few months before that will happen!

      • Dan on June 13, 2016 at 7:19 pm

        That makes complete sense! I can’t wait to watch the videos of that (months from now haha) Thanks for taking the time to answer my question.

  3. Cait on June 10, 2016 at 2:53 am

    Orange and hunter green

  4. Sheryl Togami on June 9, 2016 at 12:45 pm

    Stacy check out the Tolt Vibernation 2.0 fb page. Super fun +R training. I am having a blast with my older mares doing it. It is lots of Icelandic people of all types from all over the world now.

  5. Becky Wynn on June 9, 2016 at 1:24 am

    Orange presto
    Lime green on Jusitce

  6. Carol Giard on June 8, 2016 at 11:26 pm

    Purple and lime green

  7. Lindsay Burnett on June 8, 2016 at 10:58 pm

    Let’s give them a bit of color meant for boys, Emerald Green and Hurricane Blue-light and bright

  8. Bobbie Kiser on June 8, 2016 at 9:49 pm

    navy and hunter green belong on your boys

    • mary ozburn on June 9, 2016 at 6:58 am

      Before I saw your comment, I picked the same colors.

  9. Judy on June 8, 2016 at 8:56 pm

    Red for Justice and Hurricane blue for Presto

  10. Nicole Blanco-Cross on June 8, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    I waited until mine was a month old and wish I hadn’t I handled her every single day since birth just like your post describes, with pressure guidance. But something about the halter enclosing around their face is different. I also had a long lead rope that I used as a butt rope to help guide her and teach her to step forward with the pressure of the holder and it works really well.

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